Current research


Altruism, Warm Glow, and Generosity: A National Experiment
To what extent does altruism influence donations to charity? How does empathy induction and a moral appeal to the principle of care affect altruism and generosity? In this research, joint work with Mark Ottoni-Wilhelm (IUPUI), we try to answer this question. The project received funding from the Science of Philanthropy Initiative.

  • We presented the design of the envisioned field experiment at the 2nd SPI Conference, November 7-8, 2014.
  • A first pilot experiment was conducted on January 23, 2015 to develop a scale to measure the principle of care as a psychological state.
  • A second pilot experiment was conducted on April 16 and 17, 2015, to measure the effect of a manipulation of the principle of care through exposure to the mission statement of Oxfam America either in the form of a text, the text with a still image of donors, or a video in which donors voice the text. We extended the fieldwork on July 16, 2015.
  • An overview of the findings of the pilot experiments is in the paper presented at the 14th TIBER Symposium on Psychology and Economics and at the 3d SPI Conference, September 10-11, 2015. Slides here.
  • A third pilot experiment was conducted in October and November 2016 to test the budgets among a subsample of participants in the Giving in the Netherlands Panel Survey 2016. Hypotheses were preregistered here. Results were presented at the 86th Southern Economic Association Conference, Washington DC, November 19-21, 2016.
  • The field experiment remains to be conducted (Fall 2017).


20 Years of Giving in the Netherlands

How have giving and volunteering practices in the Netherlands changed in the past 20 years? Since the Giving in the Netherlands project started in 1995, 10 biennial surveys have been conducted that quantify the size and composition of philanthropy in the Netherlands. We are now stacking all the data that we have collected into one huge data file to answer the questions that ordinarily go unanswered. Who has been driving the increase in the amount donated in the 1990s? Why has giving not increased after 2001? Which households are giving more as a proportion of their income and wealth?

The research is joint work with Arjen de Wit, Pamala Wiepking, and Suzanne Felix. Results from the research were published in Dutch on April 20, 2017, in a volume in Dutch, called Geven in Nederland 2017: Giften, Legaten, Sponsoring en Vrijwilligerswerk. An English paper was presented at the ERNOP conference in Copenhagen. The paper is posted at the Open Science Framework.


Field experiments on crowdfunding 

PhD candidate Claire van Teunenbroek designed a natural field experiment with an online crowdfunding platform in the Netherlands. The experiment was preregistered on and is currently in the field. The first results will be presented at the 45th Arnova Conference in Washington DC in November.


Mega-Analysis of Generalized Social Trust

With an application to generalized social trust this paper introduces mega-analysis, a method developed to increase the power and generality of conclusions from empirical data-analyses. A mega-analysis uses the largest possible number of observations of a phenomenon to quantify the strength of its correlates. Characteristics of the data (e.g., time, place, collection mode) and measures (e.g., scale properties) are modeled as separate predictors in addition to substantive predictors (i.e., theoretically derived variables). Specific dependent variables as well as relations between a specific dependent variable and a set of predictors can be mega-analyzed. The benefits of mega-analysis emerge from the analysis of generalized trust, a variable included in a large number of surveys and experiments conducted globally. The mega-analysis of trust shows how sample composition, survey design and choices in statistical modeling affect the conclusions on correlates of trust.

Click here to download the most recent version of the paper. 

Status update (May 28, 2017): We have now identified over 120 surveys that include at least one question on generalized trust. The current data file includes 1,244,331 observations from respondents in 85 countries in 22 surveys. Trust is measured in a forced choice format in 751,264 observations, and on a 5, 10, or 11 point scale in 493,067 observations.


ITSSOIN: Impact of the Third Sector on Social Innovation
What is the impact of the third sector on social innovation in Europe? This is the key question of the ITSSOIN project, coordinated by the Centre for Social Investment (CSI) at the University of Heidelberg. At the Center for Philanthropic Studies I work with Arjen de Wit, Dave Verkaik and Danique Karamat Ali on this project. Our contribution focuses on the impact of volunteering on volunteers and society at large (WP3).

One of the key findings in this project is that volunteering contributes to well-being, health, and the scope and size of social networks. The effects of volunteering are not very large, but consistently positive. Read more about it here.

We have contributed to seven reports:

  1. Anheier, H.K.; Krlev, G.; Preuss, S.; Mildenberger, G.; Bekkers, R.; Mensink, W.; Bauer, A.; Knapp, M.; Wistow, G.; Hernandez, A, & Adelaja, B., (2014). Social Innovation as Impact of the Third Sector. This report describes the general approach that the project will take to study social innovation.
  2. Anheier, H. K., Krlev, G., Preuss, S., Mildenberger, G., Bekkers, R., Brink Lund, A. (2014). ITSSOIN Hypotheses. This report describes the hypotheses to be tested in the project.
  3. Bekkers, R. & Brink Lund, A. (2014). Perceptions of the Third Sector. This report describes empirical analyses of how Europeans view the third sector.
  4. Bekkers, R. & De Wit, A. (2015). Participation in Volunteering: What helps and Hinders. This report provides a literature review of factors that facilitate and inhibit volunteering.
  5. Bekkers, R. & Verkaik, D. (2015). How to estimate what participation in third sector activities does for participants. This report describes various methodologies to estimate the effect of participation in third sector activities, and specifically volunteering, on health, occupation, and well-being.
  6. De Wit, A., Bekkers, R., Karamat Ali, D., & Verkaik, D. (2015). The Welfare Impact of Participation on Participants. A report on the welfare impacts of volunteering, using longitudinal panel datasets from multiple countries in Europe, primarily the UK, the Netherlands, Germany, and Switzerland.
  7. De Wit, A., Mensink, W., Einarsson, T., & Bekkers, R. (2015). Organisations that Facilitate Volunteering. A report on the influence of third sector organisations on volunteers and the role of social innovation.


The Foundations of Generalized Social Trust: A Review of Individual-level Causes of Trust

How does generalized trust develop? Which factors shape people’s trust over the life course? A large body of research has been devoted these questions. In two previous studies I have examined the development of trust in response to changes in civic engagement (a summary is here). In a new critical review chapter, Peter Thisted Dinesen (University of Copenhagen) and I discuss the broader literature. The chapter will appear in Trust in Social Dilemmas, a volume in the Oxford University Press series in Human Cooperation, edited by Paul A.M. Van Lange, Bettina Rockenbach, and Toshio Yamagishi. Click here to download the preprint version of the chapter.


EUFORI: EU Study on Foundation Funding for Research and Innovation

How much do foundations in Europe spend on Research and Innovation? How do these foundations operate and view their roles vis-a-vis government and corporate actors? In the past two years, the Center of Philanthropic Studies has coordinated a study on European Foundations supporting Research and Innovation (EUFORI). The study was commissioned by the directorate general Research and Innovation of the European Commission. The bulk of the research is conducted by a network of experts on the 27 EU member states from the European Research Network On Philanthropy ( The study builds on a pilot study called FOREMAP published in 2009 by the  European Foundation Centre. More information on the EUFORI study is available here. In the fall of 2014 I have been working on a comparative analysis of R&I support by foundations throughout the European Union. The study is completed, and the results are available here.



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